The good news was that President Obama mentioned NASA in a speech. The bad news: the speech was about the impending federal government shutdown and its effects on various agencies. “NASA will shut down almost entirely,” he said in a speech late Monday afternoon, after noting that many essential government functions will continue, “but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station.”
As noted here Friday, only a few hundred of NASA’s employees will remain on the job today, working mission control for the ISS and operating other spacecraft. Most other NASA activities will come to a halt, including the agency’s extensive public outreach work. As NASA’s History Office noted on Twitter early Tuesday:
Due to the gov't shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.
— NASA History Office (@NASAhistory) October 1, 2013
NASA kicked off yesterday an “Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop” workshop in Houston, selecting almost 100 participants from the more than 400 who submitted papers to the agency’s request for information earlier this summer asking for ideas on how to carry out the agency’s asteroid initiative. The workshop was scheduled to continue today and tomorrow, but according to one participant, the rest of the workshop has been cancelled because of the shutdown.
The effects of the shutdown go beyond shuttered Twitter accounts and cancelled symposia. While NASA’s interpretation of shutdown rules allow it to continue operating existing satellites (albeit with skeleton crews and limited, if any, science operations), work on missions under development “will generally cease.” That means, The Planetary Society notes, that preparations for the launch of the MAVEN Mars mission will come to a halt, a month and a half before its scheduled launch. MAVEN’s launch window runs only to early December, so if there is an extended shutdown, it’s possible MAVEN will miss the window and have to wait until the next launch window in early 2016.
The shutdown also has varying impacts for other non-NASA space activities in the military at NOAA, and the FAA. The FAA noted that next week’s meetings of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee will be cancelled if the government is still in shutdown mode by midday on Monday, October 7 (the meetings are October 9 and 10.)
And, if you’re curious, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, run by a private organization, remains open even with most of NASA shut down. However, bus tours of KSC are cancelled.